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Wizards flip the script on late game collapses, road woes

Wizards flip the script on late game collapses, road woes

ORLANDO -- The opening stretch of the season needed a rewrite. Not just because the Washington Wizards only won five of 13 games, but also the repetitive narrative. Wizards take a healthy lead. Wizards fall behind. Wizards lose. Then factor in the monotonous and gloomy road angle. Washington had yet to win away from Verizon Center entering Friday's rematch at Orlando.

Perhaps the final 6:05 of the 94-91 victory over the Magic will serve as a catalyst for a team still seeking an identity. If nothing else, there's a new chapter and one worth repeating.

The Wizards led by 19 points in the first quarter, but only 72-68 entering the fourth. When Magic guard Evan Fournier's 3-pointer was followed by D.J. Augustin's 3-point play, the Wizards trailed 80-76. The home crowd inside the Amway Center roared, just as they did on Nov. 5 when Washington was outscored 27-16 in the final period of an 88-86 loss.

"The biggest thing was our intensity and our defense," guard Bradley Beal said of the difference between the two games. "We were physical and played hard for 48 minutes regardless of what the score was. That's the biggest difference."

This time, Washington made the winning plays. Otto Porter's two 3-pointers sandwiched a deep shot by Augustin. Marcin Gortat layups accounted for Washington's next two field goals and put the Wizards up for good. 

Yet what truly fueled the victory occurred when Orlando had possession. After Augustin's 3-pointer, the Wizards held the Magic without a point on five straight possessions. Combined with the Porter 3-pointer's, the Gortat layup's and John Wall's, late game wizardry, Washington held on. 

"I thought our guys did a good job of competing," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "In order to win on the road, you have to win on the defensive end. I thought we did that throughout the game."

That was especially true early -- Washington led 26-7 in the first quarter and Orlando had 15 turnovers in the first half -- and late. 

"In the first quarter we had a big lead -- and it started to go away," Wall said. "In the third quarter...we were not making shots or playing well. We still defended at a high clip."

Is Orlando a miserable offensive team, one that entered ranked 29th in scoring? Yes, but the Miami Heat labor in that area and yet put 114 on the scoreboard during a win in Washington. 

Are the Magic a playoff contender? Probably not but who cares at this point, especially after recent losses to the Heat and Philadelphia 76ers, two of the five straight foes with losing records faced by Washington. The Wizards (5-9) just need some momentum. Going 3-2 over their last five helps the cause heading into Saturday's meeting against San Antonio. 

Did the Wizards simply win this game with the Magic because Wall played after sitting out the previous meeting? Obviously, that helps. That Wall is also moving closer toward peak conditioning after coming off two knee surgeries cannot be ignored. 

This road win gets dismissed if Washington reverts back to the previous narrative. Perhaps it won't be fair judging the outcome against the title-contending Spurs, but wins can't just come against teams headed to the next draft lottery. If the Wizards combine resolve and effort going forward regardless of any momentum changes, then perhaps this regular season ends with an uplifting conclusion. For now, Washington takes the win and flips the road woes page. 

"It was a big win altogether whether it was at home or on the road," Porter said. "That is two in a row and we are just trying to take it one game at a time."

Cliches equal bad writing. That approach works just fine for a team seeking positive momentum.

[RELATED: Takeaways from the Wizards' first road win at Magic]

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Watch Rui Hachimura’s shutdown block

Watch Rui Hachimura’s shutdown block

Rui Hachimura continued his dominance in international friendlies Saturday as he put up 31 points and five rebounds in a winning effort over Germany.

After a highlight-reel performance in Thursday's loss to Argentina, Hachimura was back at it two days later.

That block at the 37-second mark is just filthy. It would also be goaltending in the NBA, but FIBA rules allow players to touch the ball at pretty much any time once it's made contact with some part of the hoop. Nevertheless, the athleticism to make this play is what stands out.

But Hachimura wasn't finished.

He looks more like Steph Curry leading that breakaway, dribbling behind his back and finishing at the rim himself than a 6-foot-8 forward.

With the international friendly schedule at its end, Japan will tip off the 2020 FIBA World Cup on Sunday, Sept. 1 against Turkey. After a matchup with the Czech Republic, Hachimura and Japan will take on his future NBA opponents when they face the United States on Sept. 5.

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Maryland native Quinn Cook tells the behind-the-scenes story of his road to the Lakers

Maryland native Quinn Cook tells the behind-the-scenes story of his road to the Lakers

Before he joined the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a blockbuster summer that saw them land Anthony Davis, before he won the NBA Finals as a role player with the Golden State Warriors, and before he averaged double-digit scoring and won the NCAA tournament at Duke, Quinn Cook was a star point guard at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.

Cook was in town this week for his fourth annual youth basketball camp at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover. NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller sat down with the former Stag, who he’s known since the now-Lakers guard was 14 years old, on the Wizards Talk podcast.

Miller talked with Cook about why he feels connected to kids in the local community and what it was like losing his father as a teenager. One of his closest friends is fellow DeMatha product Victor Oladipo, who helped him get through the loss of his father Ted when he died suddenly in 2008 after going into a coma following a colon procedure.

“My best friend Norman and Victor, their parents took them out of school, and they were with me for two weeks,” Cook said. “At the funeral, [head coach Mike] Jones had the entire DeMatha basketball program…come to the funeral and all sit together [with] their uniforms on.”

Cook also went on to talk about his time at Duke, the viral video in which he convinced some people at the mall he was J Cole and his obsession with winning before going into how he landed in Los Angeles this offseason.

“When Golden State withdrew their qualifying offer, I became unrestricted and had some teams call me and the Lakers thing, it just happened quick,” Cook said. “I had talks with them, AD called me, [LeBron James] called Rob Palinka for me, and Coach K called them, talked to Bron and stuff and we got it done.”

Check out the full podcast below and listen to Miller talk hoops every week on the Wizards Talk podcast.

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